Firefighters and Police officers go toe-to-toe for a cause Thanksgiving Weekend

Wednesday, November 23, will mark the 25th anniversary of one of St. Louis’ most fun and worthwhile sports traditions, Guns ‘N Hoses.

Guns ‘N Hoses is a charity boxing event between local police and fire department personnel. The annual event, which started back in 1987, now takes place at the Scottrade Center. Funds raised are donated to Backstoppers, which provides money to the families of those killed in the line of duty.

Program for Guns ‘N Hoses as this year’s event marks the 25th anniversary of the charity boxing event.

The event has seen tremendous growth and change throughout the years. The idea for the initial show originated with Jerry Clinton, who owned Grey Eagle distributors, the company that distributes Anheuser-Busch products. Currently Lindenwood grad Lt. John Burke of the St. Louis Police Department runs the charity event and assists with the fighters’ training.

John Burke (right sitting) organizes Guns ‘N Hoses and also serves as trainer and corner worker during the fights. He is seen talking to LU students about this year’s event.

Clinton had seen the New York Police Department hold charity boxing events of its own. The idea was to have the NYPD fight the SLPD, however, it was changed to keep it competitive.

“If we (St. Louis) fought the guys from New York, we would have gotten killed and no one wants to see that,” said Burke. “So, we hashed around ideas for a bit and said ‘let’s have the city fight the county,’ and that’s how it started.”

Later on, the show changed to include local firefighters against the police, providing the inspiration for the title of the show. One fighter from the St. Louis Police Department faces one from the St. Louis Fire Department. While no money is on the line, each fighter has no problem finding motivation to fight.

“If you’ve never been a policeman, if you’ve never been a firefighter, believe me policemen do not like firefighters and firefighters do not like policemen,” said Burke.

According to Burke, people who see the event in person see something much different than they anticipate. “When they do attend, it’s the same statement; ‘I had no idea it was like this.’” said Burke. “It’s more than boxing. It’s a show.”

It’s true that these fights are not on the same level as a heavyweight championship, but the scene is similar.

“You’ve got the Jumbotron down there. They have a great band,” said Burke. “I’m telling you, if you go to one of these events it’s like a Vegas atmosphere and a big social event.”

The crowds over the years have grown into something few expected. The show has gone from drawing a few hundred to thousands of people.

“Typically, you want 13, 14, 15 thousand people in there,” Burke said. “Sometimes we have had 16 to 18 thousand people.”
This is entertainment, but far from a joke. The men and women competitors put in a lot of work to make sure they are ready for fight night.

“Typically they train for 11 weeks,” said Burke. “There’s a lot of upside to doing this.” Several steps need to be taken to be selected to participate in the fight. “You sign up,” Burke said. “Then we register you through the state boxing commission and you take a physical and get hooked up with a trainer.”

This year’s event will see 21 total one-minute bouts, including three female bouts, something that wasn’t on former cards.

Guns ‘N Hoses attracts a who’s who of St. Louis celebrities year in and year out, to support the cause and enjoy the fights. Jim Edmonds, Kelly Chase, Jackie Smith, Devon Alexander and Joe Buck are just some of the names that have attended this event over the years.

Guns ‘N Hoses is a time to cheer on those who sacrifice on a daily basis. It shines a spotlight on these public servants and places them center-stage, something they never ask for but richly deserve.

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